Ms. Bai arrived at the Givenchy Haute Couture Salons in Paris at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday. She was the second person in line. “I set the alarm clock to snatch the tickets as soon as they were released online,” she told Jing Daily. “I was lucky to get one.” Ms. Bai is a young woman who came to Paris to study fashion management. She seized upon the opportunity to attend LVMH’s Les Journées Particulières, a global open house event for the public to explore the fashion house’s behind-the-scenes secrets during October.
At 10 a.m., we were finally in. We walked up the marble staircase while trying to imagine the founder Hubert de Givenchy entertaining his famous customers here, including his muse Audrey Hepburn. To our surprise, we were able to walk through a bookshelf to enter a secret space. A re-creation of Givenchy’s latest show—with a mirrored catwalk shimmering like a river and the song “Moon River” aptly playing—mesmerized us.
Next, “petites mains” (or hand-workers) were in attendance, stitching the couture gowns. Ms. Bai asked them some questions to collect information for her school project on the evolution of Givenchy’s fabric. “I enjoyed every minute of the visit but 20 minutes is too fleeting,” she said. “I wish I could get an internship at LVMH to learn more.”
Ms. Bai told us her friend had been in line for four hours trying to enter Christian Dior, but we were lucky enough to jump the queue, joining a group of visitors. Fascination was in the air as we walked around this elegant house while watching artisans make everything from shoes and handbags to baby clothes and haute couture. A girl in a green flowing dress was taking videos excitedly in a glamorous display of doll-sized miniature couture. She traveled from Shanghai to Paris for holiday, and this Dior experience definitely made her day. When asked what was the most memorable part of this one-hour tour, she said, “I was amazed that a piece of embroidery took over 600 hours of hard work. It reminds me of those delicate embroideries on emperor’s dragon robes.”
A drive to Asnières-sur-Seine outside Paris brought us to the original trunk-making atelier, which was built in 1859. It was hard not to admire those humble craftsmen as they made precise trunks for carrying everything from wine bottles to tea ceremony sets. We met a craftsman who has worked there for over 30 years and will retire next year. “I got my tool from my master when I joined here,” he said, pointing to a time-worn yet still shining tool. “I will pass it on to my apprentice when I retire.” We left the atelier filled with awe and then strolled through a garden dotted with orange trees before arriving at the Vuitton family’s historic home. Built in 1892 and decorated in an Art Nouveau style, the nature-inspired home—within which the curves and lines of a gorgeous collection of plants and flowers echoed the design—added a peaceful note to our busy visit.
Back at the bustling Champs-Elysées, we entered Maison Guerlain, which was celebrating its 190th anniversary this year. There Guerlain displayed the 1,100 fragrances produced since it opened in 1828. The tour was a bit more diverse, offering visitors a peek into the company’s first spa room and an augmented reality (AR) experience that lets you travel to Black Bee island (the bee is Guerlain’s iconic emblem.)
We met Ms. He, a professional woman in a casual black suit who works for a Chinese company in Paris. “I was thrilled to talk to the charming master perfumer Thierry Wasser,” she said, “and he advised me to choose a perfume that will ‘whisper love words’ to me.” Moreover, every Chinese visitor would surely delight in the generous gift bag. There was plenty of consideration made when choosing samples, including the legendary Abeille Royale Youth Watery Oil, the Mon perfume inspired by Angelina Jolie, and the sexy coral lipstick KissKiss 344 (also known as the color of Yangyang, one of China’s “little fresh meat” and Guerlain’s own brand spokesperson).
Finally, we went to Sephora, which the brand’s CEO Christopher de Lapuente described as “the candy store for beauty lovers.” Inside was a little bazaar where brands like Kenzo, Fenty Beauty By Rihanna, and Fresh Beauty Kitchen displayed their products. Perfume, skincare, and makeup workshops were also offered to visitors. While there we bumped into two Chinese sisters studying in Paris. They learned about this opportunity through Wechat accounts that share events in Paris. “We had lots of fun today and look forward to seeing more niche brands next year,” they giggled.
Our one-day experience epitomized a successful fourth edition of Les Journées Particulières. From October 12 to 14, 180,000 visitors and 3,000 artisans, designers, and employees participated at 77 exceptional locations across five continents. LVMH described it as “an unprecedented success.” While the visitor number won’t be broken down by country, an LVMH spokesperson told us that “we had a huge number of guests from China this year. Whichever site we go to, we are happy to see Chinese faces.” But how can one make the most of this open and generous opportunity next year? Two sisters gave this advice: “Do some research, get up early, and visit as many places as you can!”